For several years, if not for several decades, I have had a growing desire to equip a group of leaders to grasp and put into practice the principles that I teach about the gospel of the kingdom of God, missional-ecumenism and deep spiritual formation.
I have been teaching some of this in seminaries and the Wheaton Graduate School for the past five or six years. Since the release of my book, Your Church Is Too Small (March, 2010), I have had a growing sense that these principles can be taught best in cohort groups where people with diverse backgrounds (age, race, gender and denomination) would form a learning group that would spend nine months learning and growing into this vision as a group. Through the group a rich, like-changing, learning experience can take place.
Several months ago I began to understand, with the help of some amazing friends, how to teach this material in the very best way and still expand the number of people I disciple in this vision. I laid out a learning process where I would teach a group of 15-25 adults over the course of eight to nine months. This group would meet for four all-day intensives, separated by roughly two months each. These core meetings would allow me to impart the vision and interact dynamically with a highly motivated group. Between sessions two and four the group would convene in smaller groups, led by members of the cohort. These two evening meetings would direct their efforts toward how to apply the course to themselves and their mission/church. The cohort group will consist of both pastors and non-pastors. At the end of this intensive learning experience each person would be required to provide a plan for how they would put their own version of this vision into practice. Then, when the formal class is over, ACT 3 would be there to help graduates decide on how to follow-through, what should come next, etc. Graduates would be invited to participate in one-day follow-up meetings, year-by-year, where learning would continue. Some students would choose to take other formal classes, even pursue graduate degrees. (By the way, this cohort class can be taken for credit.) Most graduates would take no more classes but all would be encouraged and helped to develop a life-long process by which they would be assisted by ACT 3 to pursue missional-ecumenism throughout their life.
Out of these groups I will seek to identify new disciple-making teachers. These teachers would then work with ACT 3 to lead new cohort groups. My personal goal is to teach such groups for the next five years, get this program off the ground in a healthy way, and then identify and equip the teachers who we will pay as our ACT 3 teaching staff. These teachers will be accomplished missional-ecumenists who can teach and lead such groups. They will not be expected to teach exactly like me. We value the giftedness and personality of each person too highly to create a “cloning” mechanism on missional-ecumenical leadership. I will spread this vision as widely as possible for as long as possible. This program can grow and it can reach many cities and leaders. By this means it could, in time, be taught almost anywhere a cohort could be formed, here or abroad.
My first step is to launch a Beta Test group for this program that will convene in the Chicago area in 2011-12. (As of today it seems we will meet on the Wheaton College campus but this is to be confirmed.) What I know is that I am currently forming this first cohort by inviting specific people to join it. The group will convene on October 4, December 6, February 7 and April 17. These meetings will last all-day. The cost for the program is $1,000. You can pay this in various ways but for many the best will be to spread it out over the course of ten months. If you cannot afford the cost we can talk about a scholarship program where there is real need. The idea is that the cost will not stop you from taking the course but it will commit you deeply to the process and provide a revenue stream to ACT 3 for all that it is doing to teach such a course. (By the way, this is a bargain price if you know what tuition costs are for a 3-hour credit course.)
You do not have to live in Chicago to go through this first-year group. You can travel to Chicago from afar if you would like. You must, of course, make your own plans and cover your own costs. However, my guess is that almost everyone in this first group will live within a few hours of the city.
If you would like to apply to be in this first group please contact me directly via this blog or through the ACT 3 site.
Tomorrow: The course description and syllabus will be presented.
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John, this is an excellent way to promote unity in the body of Christ! I am excited that God gave you this vision and will pray for you, expecting the Spirit to work in amazing ways through this. I agree that the cost is quite low, compared to other classes. I am also eager to hear about the results as time passes, and where the Spirit leads you and the cohorts in this.